I am sure by now everyone has heard enough about COVID-19, but it would be quite remiss of me to ignore it.
Thankfully, in the Highlands of Scotland, we have managed it well, with some tragic hotspots but local incidence has been low.
From a day-to-day perspective, with great cooperation from the staff, we have managed very well. Eileen has been working from home most days, plus, with no one visiting the farm, we are confident we should be safe. For once geography is on our side, farming on a peninsular with one road to the village, the area was easy to police and strangers tend to be obvious!
On the pig front, after a recent vet visit, Grace recommended that we upped the mycotoxin binder in the sow feed. Regrettably, grain has been of average quality, so much so that samples meeting the specifications were almost a rarity. This has hit growth rates and we have the odd sow not being in pig, even with extra energy in the diets.
Normally, as we reach the end of old crop, we struggle for both quality and quantity, yet this year has been the exception, with winter barley from a local grower’s store being the best sample we have received this year. We have been rejecting loads of wheat for being high in moisture and low bushel – that is very rare for our area.
New crop is going to be a lottery, with low plantings of wheat plus potentially low uptake of malting barley caused by the distilleries being either closed or on short working weeks.
The demand for pigs has been excellent – we supply two local outlets on a 60/40 ratio and it has been noticeable that both outlets, who supply the butchery and catering trade, were flat out.
Let us hope that after this crisis, their customers remember who supplied them.
The larger of the two outlets is now requiring heavier pigs, up to the 90kg+ deadweight range, which is grand if you have accommodation that is suitable – so the next project is going to be renewing finishing accommodation.
Ironically, this is the area we had already highlighted, with two of our finishing buildings of the vintage variety! Discussing the renewal is the easy part, but, sadly, now we are out of Europe, it means no grant aid! Or should we renovate the old Brian Thomas, partially slatted building? Comments and advice accepted!
The next fight for the pig industry is the fact we might be thrown under a bus by the politicians, who seem to think that importing pork from the US is very clever.
If you think we will bring the Americans up to our welfare requirements you are deluding yourself – after all, we still have to get the Europeans to meet our sow housing standard!